Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An

Dickheads shit-talk huddled and single-file. First-world frat-boys and prairie skinheads who will never walk a mile or mourn a murdered friend in this tiny woman’s shoes. Drink up and mumble your abuse. I’m still humbled by it all: around the same time that i was riding with no hands, busting windows and getting busy behind the sportsplex (with Labonte’s older sister decked out in her Speedos), Bella was flinching from the sting of a Depo Proveran “family planning,” her own Pearl Harbour and a holocaust spanning 25 years to the rest of her life. A prison my country underwrote in paradise. And in the shadows of Santa Cruz, she crossed her fingers behind her back. Built Suharto a Trojan horse and lay still till the motherfucker sent her north where as night fell she emerged with a box under her arm that held her pledge of allegiance and her uniform. She laid it at the gates of the General’s embassy and her whisper echoed into dawn as she disappeared: The truth will set my people free.

This song was inspired by the real-life sto­ry of Bel­la Gah­los. We met her in 1997 at an East Tim­or Alert Net­work ben­e­fit in Win­nipeg. We are hum­bled to have crossed paths with her. This is her story:

Bel­la Gah­los is one of three East Tim­o­rese who have defect­ed to Cana­da. She was only three years old when Indone­sia invad­ed her coun­try. Her two young broth­ers were beat­en to death and her father was thrown into jail when the Indone­sian mil­i­tary entered her home in Jan­u­ary 1976. After the Dili mas­sacre, her old­er broth­er was jailed and bru­tal­ly tor­tured for hav­ing made a Free East Tim­or” T‑shirt worn by some of the demonstrators.

Although she focused on her per­son­al expe­ri­ence as a young sur­vivor of the Indone­sian occu­pa­tion, Bel­la also addressed U.S. com­plic­i­ty in the inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of East Tim­or and the Unit­ed States government’s con­tin­u­ing mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic sup­port for the bru­tal Suhar­to régime.

In her talks, Bel­la often recount­ed her expe­ri­ence with Indonesia’s forced ster­il­iza­tion of Tim­o­rese women and girls. She was only thir­teen years old when the mil­i­tary came to her school and asked all the young women to line up after forc­ing the boys to leave the room.

They told us we need­ed to be inject­ed to stay healthy,” she explained. I was fright­ened; I didn’t trust them. Five of them had to hold me down, and they had a very hard time. Then they came to my home the same week and inject­ed me again.”

Much lat­er, with the help of Bish­op Belo, she dis­cov­ered that she and her class­mates had been inject­ed with Depo-Provera (a birth con­trol drug).

Bel­la also spoke of liv­ing under a con­stant fear of being raped: Women in East Tim­or are raped all the time by the mil­i­tary. They just come into your home and force you.”

Bel­la began to work with the under­ground resis­tance in 1989, help­ing to plan demon­stra­tions and con­vinc­ing oth­er women to take an active role in the move­ment. In 1991, Bel­la helped to orga­nize the peace­ful march to the San­ta Cruz ceme­tery in Dili. When the Indone­sian mil­i­tary opened fire on the demon­stra­tion, Bel­la man­aged to get her­self and her preg­nant aunt over the high ceme­tery walls to safe­ty. More than 250 of her friends were not so lucky, being bru­tal­ly killed in the massacre.

In the after­math of the mas­sacre Bel­la joined the Indone­sian mil­i­tary youth corps to mask her involve­ment in the demon­stra­tion. For three years the Indone­sian author­i­ties trained her to fight against her own peo­ple. Dur­ing this time, Bel­la secret­ly used her army salary to help the resis­tance movement.

In 1994, after months of inter­ro­ga­tion and instruc­tion, the Indone­sian gov­ern­ment select­ed Bel­la to rep­re­sent East Tim­o­rese youth in the Cana­da World Youth pro­gram. She was well trained to speak to the Cana­di­an media and to por­tray Suharto’s pro­pa­gan­da machine’s ver­sion of a typ­i­cal” young Tim­o­rese — edu­cat­ed, suc­cess­ful, and pro-integration.

Bel­la defect­ed after her arrival in Cana­da with the help of her uncle, Con­stân­cio Pin­to, who had escaped East Tim­or short­ly after the Dili mas­sacre. Since then, Bel­la has been per­fect­ing her Eng­lish and tour­ing Cana­da to speak for her country’s free­dom. To learn more or to join her strug­gle, vis­it the East Tim­or Alert Net­work.

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